I have spent the evening at the Woodbridge Civic Service – where local resident and ex-hostage John McCarthy spoke really movingly about his personal experience of imprisonment and torture – and about the Freedom from Torture Foundation of which he is Patron
A Suffolk resident recently wrote to the EADT to say she no longer travels to shop in Ipswich because of the closure of the Bury Road Park and Ride (EADT Letters 03/03/12). This scenario is exactly what the Liberal Democrats predicted when the Conservatives closed the site.
Speculation? No! When the closure was first mooted back in 2010, Suffolk LibDems conducted a survey of the Park and Ride users. 20% of them told us then that they would no longer travel to Ipswich if the Park and Ride closed. It was abundantly clear from the beginning that the closure would take away valuable footfall and income to our County town. Yet the Conservatives ploughed ahead regardless.
The decision to close was never adequately explained in terms of cost, only in terms of ideology. The Bury Road Park and Ride was effective, practical and well liked across the communities north west of Ipswich, and – most peculiar of all – the overall contract cost was actually decreasing. Continuing with the closure means that the once-strong link between mid-Suffolk and Ipswich is further eroded at a time when our county town needs all the support it can get.
When the Bury Road site closed, the portfolio-holder told us that individuals would travel past the closed site to use either Copdock or Martlesham. This clearly hasn’t happened, and now it’s evident that some people aren’t travelling to Ipswich at all.
The Conservatives’ penny-wise and pound-foolish attitude to saving money is costing our County town and the Suffolk economy dear. Isn’t it time they manned up, admitted they made an error and agreed to bring this service back, encouraging people back on to public transport and back into the Ipswich shops?
Looking at the Bury Road park and ride in recent years , one suspects its supposed failure on the grounds of cost seems to be more about inflexible thought in how it should operate, rather than any lack of passengers.
(this is a slightly amended version of my letter to the EADT, published 22/03/12)
This last month at the county council Cabinet decide to ‘remodel’ Adult and Community services – and seem once again to be relying on that good old standby – the volunteer – to sort out the inevitable gap in provision. Truly extraordinary that a mindset that blandly declares that ‘ you have to pay to get the best,’ and ‘there is no such thing as society’ is also the one that is so keen to rely on others’ free labour and ‘the community’ for the really important things in life (like caring for the elderly and running public libraries).
This month too SCC started looking at the proposed Suffolk Heritage organisation, which is set be run by the Museum of East Anglian Life for the compelling reason that ‘they were the only organisation to tender for it’. Thank goodness it was a museum, eh?
Remodelling of Adult and Community Services At their last meeting, SCC’s Cabinet decided to remodel Adult and Community Services in Suffolk. They propose that ‘the community’ will increase its dealings with ’smaller’ care-related issues, while the County picks up cases needing ‘ more permanent care solutions’. The proposals will now go out to consultation. There is as yet little information as to how this shakeup will affect communities, carers and those in care.
Apparently the SCC is running a trial in Felixstowe from 1st of April.
Points of concern:
- In the risk implications it states that “ACS has to deliver budget savings of £24m over 2012/13 and 2013/14, of which £3.7m has to be delivered by 13/14 by reducing demand” Is this actually achievable? The new plan is to to be fully rolled out across the County over the course of this year – yet SCC have only just started to consult. Is this possible?
- An impact assessment has already been undertaken – yet it is too early to assess the impact of the model.
- Is this another case where the administration intends to rely on volunteers to solve all the problems of ‘smaller’ care-related issues? SCC seems to forget that the bulk of care is already undertaken by voluntary carers – the family carers (such as myself) who underpin the whole of social care by working upaid for 168 hours a week out of love. Working 24/7 as it is, SCC needs to recognise that will not be possible to get them to work any more.
Consultation on the proposed Suffolk Heritage organisation. Many of the responses of the consultation concerning the new heritage organisation were from members of the public, however, a number of organisations also took the opportunity to respond. Many of these had a number of concerns.
In particular, English Heritage stated that the proposals are not developed enough to enable a proper response, plus they raised many questions about how it might operate. They add ‘It is worth noting that other authorities in the East of England have considered outsourcing archaeological services into a variety of trusts, and have not done so after further due diligence’.
Suffolk Institute of Archaeology provided a four page letter summarising their main points of concern about the proposal (finishing, rather glumly, by saying that ‘SCC is almost certainly going to proceed with the creation of the Suffolk Heritage Trust, so that, whatever individual views might be, outright opposition is likely to be futile and counter-productive’). Their main concerns were:
- SCC has not yet explored all the available options
- In view of the number of serious questions that had been raised, the Suffolk Institute had serious doubts that a comprehensive and convincing full business case could be put together in time for approval in Spring 2012. The process should not be rushed or avoidable mistakes will certainly be made.
- SCC should not proceed with the Trust proposal unless it is prepared to ensure that the new organisation has adequate funding.
Suffolk Local History Council were very concerned about the viability of these proposals – ‘Suffolk is almost alone in seeking to cope with Government cuts by divesting itself of vital services (an approach rejected by Norfolk County Council and others)”.
It is also far from clear as to what will happen if the heritage lottery grant which SCC seems to be relying on doesn’t materialise. The people of Suffolk have not been given a plan B.
New CareAware Service in Suffolk Suffolk County Council have recently launched CareAware, a service which looks to help those people seeking financial information about how to fund long term care. This service is not run by Suffolk County Council but a national not-for-profit organisation which offers free and impartial information and advice about later life planning and how to pay for longer term care.
CareAware can be contacted on 08009540091 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
One month left to sign up for better broadband There is only one month left for both residents and businesses to show their need for better broadband across the County before the deadline passes. The Council aims to get 10,000 residents or businesses to sign up, and you can sign up by heading to http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/broadband
Mobility vehicles As there is some confusion in Woodbridge and other local areas as to what rules govern mobility vehicles, where they are allowed and under what (if any restrictions) I have covered the subject very thoroughly on my blog -link here
Just 42 I’m sure everyone in Woodbridge will be as pleased as I was to discover that our superb local youth group was shortlisted for the High Sheriff’s Community Group of the Year award, and went on to receive a High Sheriff’s charity grant at a ceremony in Bury St Edmunds cathedral last week. It is good so see their good work being recognised!
County Councillor surgery My monthly surgery will take place on Saturday 17th March, 10-12pm at Woodbridge Library
Street lighting: Just to remind everyone, the dimming/switching off of night lighting in Woodbridge will take place in the week beginning 26th March. Further finetuning can be then done on a light by light basis, so do please contact with any difficulties and report problem areas – if there are any!